Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Episode 9: the importance of validation

Episode 9 of Bitter Infertiles is live. This episode is one that we've been waiting to do for a while; one that had me tearing up while we were recording. This episode focuses on baby loss. Joining us for this important topic was the amazing Alissa from MissConceptions. I honestly don't know if we would have gotten through it without her.

*Spoiler alert: I'm starting this post by talking about the episode. If you would prefer to listen to it, please don't read any further. I really believe it's an important episode and don't take away the experience with my observations.

Sunday afternoon was a tornado of emotions and realizations. Mo, Shelley and I had been talking about recording an episode on baby loss for awhile, but the Sunday after Mo's return from the US made it clear we needed to prioritize it. The morning of, I was nervous. I've been worried about Mo for awhile and was hoping that talking with Alissa would help her find some peace and solace, as Mo was clearly still grieving for Nadav. What happened instead was the floodgates for her grief were opened.

Through her tears, Mo talked about how she relives losing Nadav on almost a daily basis. That she hurts so much and just wants the pain to go away. This was part of the push to become pregnant again so soon, as she hoped that it would help promoting healing and would allow her to move forward with life. Instead, with this last failed cycle and the realization that she should be holding her baby, she feels trapped.

It was at this point that I started looking for plane tickets to Israel.

Alissa's words were powerful ones that touched me to the core. She talked openly about Michael and Alena and about the fact that her pregnancy with Raz doesn't erase the pain of losing her first borns. She talked about grieving them, living with the "what ifs" and even about things that trigger that awful day in October

And then she said something that resonated with the gatekeepers. That circled back to what David and Dee had been trying to help me see for so many months. She told Mo how important it is to remember Nadav and to validate her loss. That healing from this terrible tragedy requires her to reopen the wound and to care for it properly. She suggested a scrapbook for him, using the posts she wrote about the lessons he taught her as potential entries. Or to claim a space in her home to hang the images of his name in the sand. A soundtrack. Or even to paint. She acknowledge how painful and scary all of this is; how tempting it is not to do this, as loved ones will worry that you're becoming obsessed, not healing or even worry that you're doing more harm. But, without honoring the dead, the living can not move on. Validation is that important.

Following the episode, I spent the rest of the morning reflecting on what both Mo and Alissa had said. Angered and pain were stirring beneath the surface and I thought of all the friends I have met through this journey who had suffered from the pain of infertility and loss. It was while I was showering it all came together. Like getting hit by lighting, where all you feel is tingling for the impact.

Infertility and pregnancy/infant loss are painful tragedies that affect so many. But what makes them so unbearable is that those suffering are rarely validated. Comments like "at least you don't have cancer/Alzheimer/6-months-to-live," "just adopt," or even "it's G_d's will" invalidate the individual who is suffering. Talking about these topics is often met with discomfort and silence, even from loved ones. And then there are the haters. Those who are so bitter in life that they think nothing of tearing you down with their callous comments and simplified rational for your pain. All of it invalidation. All of it adding more trauma.

Here's a basic psychological fact: we all need validation. Without it, wars start, families break apart and humans are miserable. With it, we bridge gaps, find purpose and move mountains (sometimes literally). We all need validation. Without it, it's easy to go mad.

What I realized is that I had spent most of my life feeling undermined. My mother was skilled at doing this, pointing to the needs of others and reasoning that my feelings didn't matter when I felt wronged. Being a good midwestern girl, I played into it. What changed that was infertility and losing two pregnancies. Suddenly, as my mother tired to minimize the pain of infertility because of my sister's unexpected pregnancy, I found myself unable to stuff the emotions. I found myself drawing away and cutting off contact. In April, when we lost our second pregnancy, I focused my rage on Lucas because I felt he invalidated our pain by announcing the news they were expecting again. That as Grey's family has silently watched us suffer, assuming space is what is needed, I felt isolated and even more invalidated because I viewed them as labeling me as "crazy."

That I have felt so incredibly invalidated in all of this for so very, very long.

Grey and I having been talking about this realization for the past few days. With David's help, we're beginning to formulate a plan for reversing these feelings and teaching those around us to give support. But a big part of learning how to teach others involves me walking the walk. To offer the same thing that I need so desperately.

Ladies, Mo needs your love. She's missing Nadav so much and needs support as she begins this painful process of reopening the wound. For awhile, I wanted to tell her exactly what to do in order to heal, what to create to honor Nadav. But what hit me most was not that she needs the project, just the support  and love. So please, go give it to her. Wrap this amazing soul in love and light. And tell her that she's validated. That losing her baby isn't something to be minimized or hidden. Reread these posts and share with her what you've learned from your journey too.

But most of all, let her know you understand and that's she's not alone.

Spoiler alert #2: next week's episode is about Ricki Lake. Jessica from Too Many Fish to Fry will be back from her hiatus to talk about this. Be prepared for lots of ranting.


  1. Cristy
    I don't listen to the Podcast but I loved this post. For me, I tend to accept being invalidated because I feel like I should be invalidated, because everything I feel is "in my head," and I don't deserve to feel validated. Thanks for writing this, thanks for making me realize that no one deserves that. Stopping by Mo's blog now.

  2. I haven't had the chance to listen the broadcasts but I do show my support for you gals when I can.

  3. This podcast definitely stirred up emotions in me. Ricki also did a show about adoption not long ago. I didn't catch the infertility one but I did see the adoption one. It seemed to be better than the infertility episode but one thing that rubbed me the wrong way is that she consistently used negative adoption language. She repeatedly said the birth mother "gave the baby up" instead of saying she placed the baby for adoption. I just felt like they should have done a little more research.

    1. I was worried about that. There's so many negative connotations associated with adoption, painting a less-than-favorable picture on the people on both sides of this process. Now we have a talk show that's promoting the negative aspects. Wonderful.

      It's a clear indication that it's time we changed the conversation. NY Times wrote an article that I really think everyone should read. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/10/29/should-the-adoption-tax-credit-be-renewed

  4. This post is awesome and totally my experience. Thanks for this and for the podcast. It's been great (although I'm behind several weeks... oops...).

  5. I can't wait to listen. You guys make me feel so much better.

  6. I haven't listened to the podcast, but I think everything you say here is right on. Isn't that part of the reason we all started blogging? Because we couldn't find that validation anywhere else?


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